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Athletes praise Sochi venues

11 February 2013

SOCHI 2014: There were Test Events aplenty in Sochi over the weekend as the Russian host city of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games welcomed athletes in Nordic Combined, Cross Country and Short Track Speed Skating.

All facets of the venues were tested- from crowd control to snow conditions to transport and athlete management.

It was the first time in 23 years that the FIS Nordic Combined World Cup had been held in Russia, and the competitors were impressed by the facilities at the RusSki Gorki venue, which will stage the Nordic Combined competitions during next year’s Games.

“I’m so happy,” said winner of the individual event, Bernhard Gruber from Austria, who also won Olympic gold in the 4x5km team event in Vancouver in 2010.

"I like this place here very much, everything around here is great… The track is very hard, but I like it and it’s wonderful.

“For me, it is a special feeling here because next year is the Olympic Winter Games. It is an important competition and I like it. I like the hill, I like the track and I can be very strong here."

The FIS World Cup was the first event at RusSki Gorki during which both the Nordic Combined track and the K-125 Olympic Ski Jump were used in competition. The dual facility enables spectators to watch both the ski jumping and cross-country skiing elements of the Nordic Combined event in the same venue.

Across at the newly-constructed Cross Country venue, athletes were equally impressed.

“When I first got here, I thought to myself that this is what I always imagine an Olympic course to be like, before I ever got to one,” America’s Kikkan Randall, who won the women’s free technique sprint event, said.

“This course has a very Olympic feel to it, similar to the Vancouver course. It also has a long stretch before the finish, and the finish line in the full view of the tribunes. I think there is going to be a lot of drama here next year.”

Norway’s Kristin Stoermer Steira, who won the women’s 15km pursuit, was also full of praise for the Sochi venue.

"I like it a lot, the classic course,” she said.

“It has a lot of turns, small uphill. I like the last kilometre; it is really tough. Next year during the Winter Games the last uphill will be really important."

The final day of competition saw the team sprint classic technique races take place, with Russia’s Dmitry Japarov and Maxim Vylegzhanin giving the home crowd reason to cheer as they clinched a solid victory in the men’s event, beating Teodor Peterson and Emil Joensson of Sweden by over 18 seconds.

“It feels great to be on the podium on the home soil,” Japarov said.

“Maxim did a very good job on his legs and we could build up the gap. It was our plan to go as fast as possible right from the start. I hope we can repeat the same performance also next year at the Winter Games.”

At Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace, stars such as Canada’s double Olympic champion Charles Hamelin, China’s four-time Olympic gold medallist Wang Meng and Korea’s Youth Olympic champion Suk Hee Shim took to the ice in front of thousands of fans.

The venue will host the short track speed skating and figure skating events during next year’s Winter Games.

Team Russia won their first gold medal in the series in the Men’s 5,000m Relay, however the reigning Olympic Champions Team Canada lead the World Cup classification.

Olympics.com.au with IOC